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Across Town

More gatherings and notable events...

Monday, March 01, 2004

The Epilepsy Foundation's Mardi Gras Gala is famous for a number of things, but it boils down to the most fun you can have in a tux on a Tuesday night in Pittsburgh. It helps that the halls of the Westin Convention Center are decorated to the hilt with thousands of balloons and streamers, and that the bars keep pouring and the band keeps playing before, during and after dinner.

Martha Rial, Post-Gazette
Juggler Joe Lyons entertains
Click photo for larger image.

No one is expected to pay attention for long, and speeches are notoriously short. Still, Children's Hospital CEO Ron Violi broke the record after Highmark CEO Dr. Ken Melani crowned him as King of the 10th. Annual Mardi Gras Gala. "Thank you for coming this evening. Let's all have a good time!"

Violi's royal proclamation was just the encouragement the crowd of more than 800 needed to dig into the mounds of party favors that covered each table -- feathered masks, jester caps, lace garters and beads galore -- and the regal repast of greens with crab, beef filet and a divine chocolate banana cake delivered by chef Bill Soriano. Jim Roddey served as master of ceremonies and introduced former California U. S. Rep. Tony Coelho, the man who authored the American's With Disabilities Act. Coelho praised Epilepsy Foundation executive director Judy Painter (with Dr. Michael) as the best in the country and talked movingly about his own experiences with epilepsy. Then it was back to the sounds of the John Parker Band, which graciously let Ed Little jump in and sing a heartfelt "You've Lost That Loving Feeling."

Joining dinner co-chairs Lou Astorino (with Jean), Mary Jo Dively (with Lane), Joe Guyaux (with Kathy) and Douglas Dick (with Laura Hruby) in helping to raise $320,000 were board chair Lou Testoni (with Cathy), Patty Violi, Tom Chakurda, Tom and Carol Freed, Joyce and Bill Bender, Drs. Robert and Nina Schor, Dr. Loren and Ellen Roth, Jack and Rosemary Brooks, Steve and Helen Hanna Casey, Gusty and Karen Sunseri, Dr. Michael and Slo Casey, Karen Wolk Feinstein, Bob and Mary Pat Moorehead, Kurt and Cindy Lesker, Denis and Elizabeth McCarthy, Greg and Jamini Davies and Eugene and Cynthia DeFrank. Shelly Tolo found those fab lamps that made the ballroom glow like Bourbon Street.

Pam Panchak, Post-Gazette
Thomas Usher and wife Sandy; Larry Richert, and Dr. Barbara K. Mistick,
Click photo for larger image.

Vectors Victors

More than 500 guests watched the video in which he described his most embarrassing moment -- the time he split his pants on the golf course. But U.S. Steel CEO Tom Usher shared the laugh with his wife, Sandy, before he graciously accepted Vector's Man of the Year Award during Vector's 64th Pittsburgh Men and Women of the Year Dinner at the Omni William Penn Saturday night. Construction hats and "men at work" signs in the Urban Room reflected the evening's theme, "Laying the Foundation for A Better Tomorrow." Also recognized were Pittsburgh Cultural Trust CEO Kevin McMahon, Education Management Corp. chairman Robert Knutson, Dr. Freddie Fu, CMU Distinguished Service professor Barbara Mistick, Pittsburgh Foundation CEO Bill Trueheart, Chief U.S. District Judge for Western Pennsylvania Donetta Ambrose, Duquesne University's Rev. Sean Hogan, Dr. David Orenstein, Pitt's Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence executive director Ann Dugan and MARC USA CEO Tony Bucci, who was selected to speak for all the awardees. Urban League president Esther Bush received the David L. Lawrence Memorial Award, while KDKA Radio's Larry Richert was honored with the Richard S. Caliguiri Memorial Award.

--- Patricia Sheridan

Lisa Kyle, Post-Gazette
At the Best Friends Ball tennis shoes instead of stillettos kept these dogs from barking.
Click photo for larger image.

Best Friends Ball

The pawsibilities were endless. A creative black tie that encouraged tennis shoes instead of stilettos. With that kind of cushy comfort, nobody's dogs were barking! But those weren't the dogs The Best Friends Ball at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall was about. The event benefited the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, which is currently housing approximately 350 animals looking for homes. "We have had frogs, pigs, ducks, turtles, rabbits, ferrets, lizards of every description, snakes, birds and parrots, which can live 70 years or more," noted customer service director Gretchen Fiese. So, before you run to the pet store, check out these gently used creatures looking for love.

Honorary chair Linda Fisher and event chair Laura Dawson (with Bill) put their hearts and soles into the party, wearing high tops with their taffeta. Becky Torbin had husband Herb on a short leash, which he wore as a tie in a kinky-cool way. He also glued tennis balls to the tops of his tux shoes. Steven Webster broke out the black leather pants for his tux, while some other tough guys went for studded collars instead of shirt studs. Poised to unleash their animal instincts to the band "In The Mood" were emcee Sally Wiggin of WTAE, Suzanne Woodings-Ryder with Rick, board chair Don Vance with Joyce, Susie and Tim Williams, Stacey Vance with Jamie Shafer, David and Laurie Moran, Susie and John Wean, Mary Ellen Costa, Therese Rocco, Dennis and Annie Cestra, Jessica and Drew Torbin, Judy Ruskin, Gayle and Bill Simpson, Art and Karen West, Saks Fifth Avenue's GM Larry Bruce, Robert Davis, Jacquie McBurney, Michael and Lisa Friday, Rosie Welsh, Dan and Eileen Gallagher, and new director of the Humane Society Lee Nesler.

-- Patricia Sheridan

Annie O'Neill, Post-Gazette
Cherrie and Reginald Brown of Cranberry make their entrance.
Click photo for larger image.

Hollywood on the Mon

Pittsburgh went Hollywood last night for the fourth annual "Lights! Glamour! Action!" benefit for the Pittsburgh Film Office.

More than 850 guests including Gov. Ed Rendell paraded down the red carpet to enter Loews Theater at the Waterfront, sample numerous bars and buffets donated by local restaurants and watch Pittsburgh's own Academy Awards, along with the real ones, on giant screens.

Film Office director Dawn Keezer showed as much muscle as cleavage, attracting tons of politicians including County Executive Dan Onorato, Mayor Tom Murphy, U.S. Reps. Tim Murphy and Melissa Hart and worst actor winner state Rep. Paul Costa.

Leslie McCombs (with Randy) served as emcee for the awards ceremony, handing out best actress to Amy Costner and best actor to Ralph Vittucio.

As usual, film office board chair Russ Streiner did a great job of directing assorted levels of talent as they performed lines from favorite films.

Helping to support the Film Office, which has generated $244 million to date for the local economy, were PNC's Tom Whitford with Margaret, Rob and Christina Cochran, David and Karen Haddad, Dr. Debra Abell, Rich Dwyer, WQED's BJ Leber, Alan and Mari Hertzberg, Jan Rae, Ralph Kaiser, Nancy Mosser, Otto and Vicki Chu, Paul Leventon and Anita Fagnilli, Tom Savini, Beth and Michael Kuhn, Harry Readshaw and many more.

The gowns were the best yet, with guests trying and vying for attention in some truly stellar creations. Hollywood on the Mon, indeed!

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